Listen to distinguished speakers, take advantage of opportunities

I have too many reasons to brag about being a student at the University of Miami. I could whip out our football and basketball statistics, point at the flip-flops and palm trees, or talk about our top-ranked academics. However, one of my favorite reasons to be a Hurricane is the amount of distinguished people who walk through our campus each semester.

As a junior, I have had the pleasure of seeing a handful of fantastic speakers, such as President Barack Obama (multiple times), former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s, Billy Joel, Andy Cohen and, most recently, international journalist Lisa Ling.

On top of that, our very own acclaimed celebrity, President Donna E. Shalala, has the opportunity to introduce every speaker. These people bring a sense of excitement and variety to our campus. From politicians to television hosts to musicians, each speaker brings new flavors and ideas to our campus that jumpstart motivation in our students.

The speech that has stuck with me the most is Ling’s. Perhaps it’s because I’m a journalism major myself, or that I’m a sucker for her self-deprecating humor, but her speech had every quality that could push students farther. She held nothing back when speaking about reporting in North Korea and Afghanistan, stories in which she spoke with brainwashed diplomats and young boys carrying artillery rifles, respectively. Ling begged our student body to keep faith in humanity and to constantly remain curious.

Although her crowd was smaller than that of Obama’s or Mitt Romney’s, her audience seemed to take her speech the most literally. The question and answer session after lasted nearly an hour, and students stepped to the plate, one after one, explaining their plans to start up a charity or undertake some cause, asking for any assistance from her. Ling’s calm and collected demeanor projected a sense of comfort around the room, despite the horrors that everyone had known that she’d seen.

This is just a small example of how distinguished speakers have affected UM’s student body. With Ray Lewis having just visited, and many more on the way, students are lucky to be in the presence of these influential and fascinating speakers. I highly recommend seeing any and every speaker that visits campus, because no matter the subject, I always learn something new.
Alexa Pappas is a junior majoring in journalism.